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Revealing Another Conversation Could Impact LSU Story


An argument over attorney-client privilege during the deposition of Pacific Union Conference President Ricardo Graham has brought to  light the role of General Conference President Ted Wilson in the saga of La Sierra University’s accreditation.

Depositions are now underway in the case of the three La Sierra University employees who were coerced to resign in 2011. On Friday, May 17, 2013, their attorney Richard D. McCune filed a motion to compel testimony by Ricardo Graham, the chairman of the LSU Board.

During his May 8 deposition, Graham refused to answer questions about a 2011 phone conversation that took place the day before Jeffrey Kaatz, James Beach and Gary Bradley resigned. Participating in that phone call with Graham were Dan Jackson, president of the North American Division; Larry Blackmer, NAD vice president for education; Karnik Doukmetzian, general counsel for the General Conference; and Kent Hansen, counsel for La Sierra University. 

When McCune started asking Graham questions about the call, Michael Connally, who now represents La Sierra University, the North American Division and the General Conference in the case, immediately objected, citing attorney-client privilege. Graham’s attorney Jon Daggett also objected to these questions.

Was it in this phone conversation that the plan was formed to show Kaatz, Beach and Bradley the transcript of their private conversation at Beach’s home and invite their resignation? Why was the president of the university not included in this call? And why did Graham refuse to tell the president why he wanted to meet with Kaatz, Beach and Bradley the following day? Will the court force Graham to answer questions about the call? On June 21 the Superior Court of California will respond.

Along with the motion to compel testimony from Ricardo Graham, McCune provided the court with background documents that have been gathered in the discovery process.

One of the documents is an email message from General Conference President Ted Wilson, dated March 23, 2011, in which he is directing how the motion on LSU’s accreditation should be composed for presentation at the Adventist Accrediting Agency Board. Wilson says that their accreditation should be “provisional” and stipulates that:

La Sierra University faculty with special attention to the Biology and Religion departments, who do not believe in and endorse the voted SDA belief in creation be released from service for La Sierra University.

And Wilson’s last stipulation was that “Board governance structure and function to be revised providing for a much fuller participation of the university board including the privilege for board members to visit and survey any and all programs on campus.”

It was the changes in the LSU accreditation recommendation for the AAA Board that set in motion the chain of events that prompted the resignation of the three administrators. The ramifications continue to this day. On Thursday, May 23, the La Sierra University constituency will meet to review changes in the university bylaws to ensure the independence of the institution’s board. To document that it was the General Conference president who specifically asked for LSU employees to be “released from service” is revealing in much the same way that the LSU employees’ private recording made public their personal opinions.

—Bonnie Dwyer is the editor of Spectrum. 

Click here to read the motion to compel testimony. The first exhibit includes pertinent parts of the May 8, 2013, deposition of Ricardo Graham. 

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